BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: The 2017 Howies


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I’m a tad late this year, but no matter how long ago 2017 passed, how could it be complete without the Howies, my awards for the best films of the year. And 2017 turned out to be a very good year, much superior to 2016. In fact, coming up with the best this time was much more difficult and meant I had to leave some exceptionally good films on the cutting room floor.
But without further ado, let’s proceed.
Best Picture
(BPM) Beats Per Minute

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…AND THE REST


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
I have now gotten so far behind in my film reviewing, I was despairing of ever finishing them for 2017. To remedy that, I will be writing quick and short reviews and include them all in this post as they are done.
Call Me By Your Name is an exquisite film with an exquisite story that has an unhappy ending because it wouldn’t be nearly as exquisite if it didn’t, and is based upon an exquisite novel by Andre Aciman (actually, I haven’t read it, so I’m just guessing). The exquisite screenplay, by James Ivory, the legendary writer/director/producer of the legendary films from the legendary Ivory/Merchant production company, is about an affair between a 17-year old Italian American from a scholarly family living in the Italian countryside and a 24-year old grad student visiting the family. It’s deeply felt, deeply emotional, and a deeply rewarding film experience. Deeply and exquisitely directed by Luca Guadagnino, deeply and exquisitely. With Timothee Chalomet as the teen, Arnmie Hammer as the older student and Michael Stuhlbarg as the empathetic father. Deeply exquisite. Continue reading

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME: Coco, Foxtrot


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
In writer/director Samuel Maoz’s often deeply affecting film Foxtrot, one can say that the title is truth in advertising. Like the basic steps of that dance, the movie is structured in four movements, with a fifth one returning to the beginning as the movements begin to repeat themselves.
The basic story revolves around an Israeli family who receives news that their soldier son died at a roadblock he was stationed at. The grief here is palpable and broad. And then they discover that there is more to come.
The first step is the viewpoint of someone driving a truck; the second the revelation of the son’s death; the third, a dramatization of the son’s life at his outpost; the fourth, another scene with the family; and then back to the truck that began the dance in the first place. Continue reading

THE ART OF THE MATTER – Part Two: The Square, The Disaster Artist


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First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
After watching The Square, the new film from writer/director Robert Ostlund (he previously gave us the cheeky Force Majeure), I have to say I’m not exactly sure what point he was trying to make. At the same time, it was so entertaining and involving, I guess I’m not exactly sure I cared.
The story revolves around a man named Christian (I doubt Ostlund randomly drew the name out of a hat), the curator for a modern art museum in Sweden. The museum’s newest installation is, well, a square. That’s it, a square, with some wording about what the square means (though after hearing the words a few times, I’m not sure I knew exactly what that was).
I think it has something to do with the idea that whoever is in the square is supposed to be treated as equal to anyone else, a safe place where they are protected from harm. Continue reading

MOTHER’S INFERIOR AND SUPERIOR: Lady Bird, Noviate


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new consultation service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  FosCheck out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
I think I will begin this review with a personal anecdote. Years ago, I was in the audience for one of the final previews for Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along, a tale told in reverse about three friends who betray the ideals they had when just starting out. It was a disaster. An unmitigated one at that. And it closed, I believe, around two weeks after it opened, if it lasted that long.
It was so terrible, I though the songs, with a couple of exceptions, were not just Sondheim’s worst, they were just bad.
A year later, I was in the cutout section of a record store (remember those?) and I ran across a cast recording for the show. I bought it and listened to it anew and realized the songs were wonderful and that it had been the production that was, well, let us be kind and say…lacking.
Since then, I have seen two productions of it and I realized that it actually is a pretty good show. Continue reading

REEL MOTHERS: I, Tonya, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new consultation service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  FosCheck out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
I, Tonya, the new film from writer Steven Rogers and director Craig Gillespie, is a fictional account of the ice skating scandal where the husband of skater Tonya Harding, along with her bodyguard, conspired to break the leg of Tonya’s main rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
No matter what else it may be, I, Tonya is very successful and could easily be a real crowd pleaser. Structurally, it’s a forthright dramatization of the events punctuated with talking head interviews of the characters looking back on events. It’s often extremely funny and at times manages to show some empathy for the title character.
Though it is effective, it also at times feels a bit condescending and exploitive, as if the filmmakers were treating this as an elongated Jerry Springer show. So the laughs are sometimes a bit cruel and at the expense of the real life counterparts. Continue reading

MAKING A KILLING: The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Murder on the Orient Express


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new consultation service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  FosCheck out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
When I saw writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos and writer Efthymis Filippou’s earlier film Dogtooth, I must be honest and say I didn’t have the most favorable reaction and many might consider that odd.
I felt it a rather dated attack on middle class mores that had already been done to death in the 1950’s and 60’s, especially in the off-Broadway theater.
But then I saw The Lobster, their last film, an hysterical satire and social commentary on love and relationships and the society that promotes them.
And now I’ve seen their latest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and I realized I was partially right about my earlier analysis because the more I see of their work, the more I realize the turgid social commentary of those decades are not their main influences. Rather, these two artists are the 21st Century embodiment of the existentialist/theater of the absurd practitioners like Beckett, Ionesco, Sartre, Albee and others of that ilk. Continue reading